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5 things learned from Oct. 4 preseason games

Jamie Benn, Duncan Keith, Jack Eichel look sharp in debuts

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The 15-day, 106-game NHL preseason schedule is in full swing, and each day will take a closer look at the players, teams and stories that are making headlines in the days leading up to the start of the regular season Oct. 12.

Here are five things we learned from the preseason games Tuesday:

Benn is back: Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn played his first preseason game and had an assist on the game-tying goal in a 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers at American Airlines Center.

Benn, who had surgery July 14 to repair an injured core muscle and withdrew from Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Aug. 23 to focus on getting ready for the Stars season, took four shots on goal and won 67 percent of his faceoffs in 19:36 of ice time.  

Video: Benn feels good after preseason action

"It was fun to get back out there, I was excited to play," Benn said. "I felt good. I just tried to play my game and not think about really how my body feels and just get in it right away. For the most part, I'm happy with how I felt."

Benn is expected to play in the Stars' final preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings in Las Vegas on Friday.

"I thought he was good for a first game," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He was in on some good opportunities and I thought he skated well."

Werenski continues to impress: Columbus Blue Jackets rookie defenseman Zach Werenski scored his first preseason goal in a 3-2 overtime win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. 

Werenski, 19, is one of the top prospects the Blue Jackets are hoping will emerge as a regular out of training camp. He took three shots on goal and was credited with one blocked shot. He played 24:54, the second-highest total among all players behind defenseman David Savard. He was used on the power play (5:14) and in penalty-killing situations (1:13).

"At the beginning I was a little bit nervous, wasn't really playing my game," he told the Blue Jackets website. "As the game went on, I got a little more comfortable. Their lineup was pretty stacked. For me just to be out there with guys like P.K. Subban, [Mike] Fisher, James Neal, guys like that, who I grew up watching, it was different at first. But I got more comfortable."

"He skates out of trouble," assistant coach Brad Larsen said of Werenski. "He seems to make the right plays. He makes our power play better."

Keith on target: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith declared himself "ready to roll" after he finished with two assists, a plus-3 rating and two blocked shots in 19:41 of ice time in his first preseason game.

Video: Duncan Keith on first preseason action of the season

Keith missed the World Cup and four preseason games because of discomfort in his right knee, but looked strong in a 6-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Chicago. He expects to play against the St. Louis Blues in the season opener at United Center on Oct. 12.

"I'm ready to roll," Keith said. "I had lots of energy before the game, and [it had] been a while since I played last. So I was excited to get back out there and get in front of the crowd again and play in a real game."

The game was Keith's first live action since April 25, when the Blackhawks lost to the Blues in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round.

"I think it was a good test getting back in a game situation, so I was happy with it," Keith said. "There's always going to be plays and things that you maybe want back in certain situations, but we all make mistakes and there's nothing there that's going to be stemming from my knee or whatever. It feels good, and I think it's going to be good going forward."

Eichel returns: Jack Eichel made his preseason debut in a 2-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, played at Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan, at Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016.

Eichel, who skated on a line with Sam Reinhart and Alexander Nylander, had the secondary assist on Reinhart's second-period goal that gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead. 

Video: Eichel, Hanifin and O'Reilly meet fans in Marquette

Eichel missed the previous four preseason games after playing for Team North America in the World Cup. He had one goal, two points and eight shots in three tournament games.

Clutterbuck connects: Right wing Cal Clutterbuck scored two goals in his preseason debut to help the New York Islanders defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime at Barclays Center.

Clutterbuck missed the first week of training camp because of a lower-body injury and didn't participate in any of the Islanders' first five preseason games. He took five shots on goal and delivered two hits in 17:04. He saw time on the power play (1:11) and penalty kill (1:02).

"I feel good," Clutterbuck told the Islanders website. "There are always some nerves that go with getting the first one out of the way, but once the puck drops and the game gets going, you fall back into your old ways and it becomes second nature. It's been a long time coming with guys playing three or four games now, so I'm excited."

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